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10 Ways To (Politely) Get Someone To Shut Up

At last nights IAF (International Association of Facilitators) London “Meet Up” Sharon O’Regan asked us to share ideas for how to handle a person in a meeting who won’t shut up.

Photo credit, image from Lynettes Blog.

In an entertaining discussion, ten ideas were shared, here they are in brief.

1. Establish in the preparation phase ground rules, and contract with the group how you might intervene should someone drone on.

2. In facilitated workshop (as the facilitator), move ever closer to the person talking over time, and slowly come more into their field of vision, bringing their attention to you and your body language and your gestures to close or conclude.

3. In a 'speaker presenting' scenario, brief speakers that you’ll give them a count down using fingers as minutes. Hold 5 fingers in the air with 5 mins to go, and keep your hand aloft until the speaker has seen the 5 mins remain sign. Count down at 3, 2 and then 1 minute.

Photo credit, image from Cheezburger

4. Contract with the group that a projected (and visible to all) count down clock will mark the end of a presentation, and that when the countdown reaches zero, everyone should applaud, regardless of if they have finished or not.

5. Offer the group tools that they can use with each other to signal its time to move on.
Martin Gilbraith suggested a simple way was to use both hands to make rabbit ears (to signal someone is rabbiting on).

6. Or you could use the SUMO (Shut Up and Move On) or MOMO (Move On, Move On) gridcard approach outlined in a
previous blog post here.

7. Find a pause, (even a tiny one), and gently and politely ask 'should we move on'?

8. Consider interrupting and use the moment to create conscious awareness to the circumstance of someone banging on, to invite the whole group to become more aware of what’s happening.
“Can you stop for a moment, I’d like your permission to interrupt to bring your attention and the groups attention to whats happening at the moment...”

9. Use
gridcards (or post-its) as a device to use in place of spoken words, and invoke the “One Gridcard Rule” (Download this card here).

10. If all else fails, pass round a box of ear plugs (or as a man I knew called them, “Shut the F*** Up Plugs” ) as a visible sign that enough is enough.

Thanks to Martin Gilbraith, Julia Goga Cooke, Mary Higgins, Nikki Wilson, Sharon O’Regan, Martin Farrell and Nihal Salah for the meeting.
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